2004 NCAA Tournament 65-to-1 - Bracketography.com

2004 NCAA Tournament 65 to 1


by Andy Force
Senior Writer, Bracketography.com
March 18, 2004


The Field of 65 has been posted. Right now it is just a jumble of team names without any personality. Thursday and Friday this paper bracket will come to life in fabulous fashion. A tremendous dichotomy of passion will bloom as raised arms signify jubilation. Concerned viewers of the same game will shed tears and have their hearts broken. The difference could be a point or two, but the result means so much to the invested fans. The tournament is not about the office pool or the money line. It is about the fan that cheered on their team all year, suffered the unexpected pitfalls, rejoiced in the moments of triumph, sweated out the conference tournament, and NCAA selections along with the players and coaches. It is for this fan that I write this article.

At first glance…
What did the five fingers say to the Big Ten? SLAP! Pitt gets the most rude # 3 seed ever, having a potential second round meeting with a Wisconsin (IN Milwaukee) team that finished one game out of its 3rd consecutive Big Ten Title. Stanford and St. Joseph's retained #1 seeds, rewarded for the season long success and not one slip-up at the end.

When anticipating the winners, the most important thing is realizing the difference between teams playing for fun, or playing to be the one. Some teams have spent the last week putting it on the line every night. They already started the "lose and go home" format. If Tyler Coppenrath of Vermont doesn't have a barrage of 43 points (after missing one month of games) the Catamounts are done. If UIC Flames Martell Bailey and "Ced" Banks lose to the staunch state-of-Wisconsin tough D of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Kansas does not draw this fiesty, spirited opponent.

There are numerous teams across the country having already accomplished a great deal. They reached their goal, the dream of entering the NCAA tournament. FAMU's win in the 64/65 game shows they are in it to win it. That may be ludicrous, but teams that believe are the dangerous ones. There are teams that will rest on their laurels, content with just being apart of the pageantry. Those teams will be throttled, pounded, and left for dead. The Atlanta region has been agreed upon as the toughest with the St. Louis bracket close behind. A closer look reveals the reason for Atlanta's power. Seven teams in this region have been ranked in the top 10 this season. In mid-January, this recently created contingent composed half of the top 10. This same week featured eight, that is eight of the top 22 teams in the land. Is there any tradition with these teams? The past 18 final fours have included 8 different teams from this juggernaut of a bracket. From 1986-present, 35% (25/72) of the final 4 participants were of the aforementioned ATL region. That is a hotbed of success rivaling only ATL's rap circuit.

Sure depth of teams is impressive, but how about some surging teams. The Phoenix bracket features Stanford, UConn, and Maryland. Each team won its conference tournament. Stanford has lost one game all year, to Washington before dispatching them in the Pac-10 finals. UConn's Ben Gordon showed the extent of his capabilities with 81 points in the Big East tournament (new record eclipsing Allen Iverson's 79 for '96 Georgetown squad). Maryland played their way from NIT-bound to #4 seed in the past week. They have an awfully high loss tally, 11, yet topped Wake Forest, NC State, and Duke en route to a astounding ACC tourney title.

East Rutherford includes several plummeting teams. Florida, at the #5, is 6-4 in its last 10 games. Wake Forest has lost its last 3 games! After beating a horrifically bad A & M team on January 24th, #8 Texas Tech has posted a 6-8 record since. South Carolina, #10, has done its share of losing lately, dropping seven games in the past weeks. Everything can change with a uplifting win, but momentum does play a factor.

Experts like to show you the math, #12 seeds win 38 % of the time vs. #5 seeds. Everyone has his or her gut feelings and formulas. When it comes to the games, it is not about math or instinct. The games are about heart and drive. What players are willing to take over? The lights are brightest now, but your hand has to remain steady.

The best part about the NCAA tourney is that we know it will be great, we know there will be fans going bonkers. Games will end in unfathomable fashion. However, we do not know who will be going bonkers, which teams will succeed, who will slip up. That is the great draw to fans. We fear what we do not know, but it excites us too. Prepare to be a fan again. You will realize why you love to watch sports, again.